#CoffeeWithHR: Neha Chahal and Pragya Singh of Fella Homes on Hiring A-Listers

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“Human Resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” – Steve Wynn

A company is as great as the people it keeps hiring. This greatness begins at the top and runs down to the last employee. But reaching that greatness requires a great deal of sweat, time, and patience. Especially for early stage startups with sky-high dreams. And it all starts with bringing in the right people. A startup that’s picked up this mantra early on is Fella Homes. Founded by IIT Roorkee and Stanford alums, Fella Homes understood that hiring and nurturing exceptional talent was key to building a great product. Displaying strategic, well thought-out priorities, they acquired Lifepad soon after cashing in their $2 million funding and absorbed their team. Fella Homes is a people-centric company with the focus on providing an exceptional experience to candidates and employees alike. And the engine that keeps this wheel turning is their HR team. So, we met with Neha Chahal and Pragya Singh, TA specialists and HR operations at Fella Homes, to dive deeper into their philosophy and understand how they lure great talent by creating a delightful culture. As a bonus, we also got to meet their personal side (which was really awesome).

Alright, it’s time to meet them!CoffeeWithHR fella homesPragya and Neha with their Instahyre account manager Nishank Patel

How do you define yourself in a few sentences?

Neha: In a sentence – I’m a simple, outdoorsy girl in the HR profession with a Bollywood obsession. I’m a die-hard SRK fan too. Pragya: I’m an introspective, mild mannered person who loves interacting with people, thanks to my profession.

Tell us about your typical day at work?

Neha: Well, startup life is pretty bright and breezy, and a typical day at a startup doesn’t exist. Seriously, our day is totally unpredictable! I usually start with drafting out a plan for the day. Then I meet my co-workers who catch me up to speed on different projects. After that, I dive into my tasks for the day, which can be anything from following up with a candidate to answering some of the silliest questions from my teammates with a smile. For the most part, I bustle through my day owning my work and having crazy fun.

Awesome! Are there any major challenges that you face in your role?

Pragya: One of our major challenges is to find candidates with experience in the relevant background. For instance, if there’s a sales position open, we prefer to hire someone with a background in real estate sales. It becomes an issue when we can’t find a candidate matching our exact requirements. Neha: Another problem we face is huge salary expectations from tech guys. Tech candidates know that the startup ecosystem offers multiple career opportunities. So they don’t shy away from negotiating up to 30-40% hike in salary. Moreover, candidates believe if you’re a funded startup then you must have that kind of cash to throw around on hiring people. Which is so not true.

Since you mention that, I remember this was the case about a year ago when startups were splurging big money to hire good talent. Is that the reason for this mindset among candidates?

Neha: Yeah, totally. That was the case a year ago, but now startups have budget constraints for every profile. Only the thing is, candidates don’t know this. They still relate a startup job with incredible salary hikes. Being an early stage startup, we don’t want to splurge big money on hiring and then go bust.

So, what kind of company culture do you cultivate at Fella Homes?

Neha: We have a pretty relaxed and collaborative culture here. Our open office layout opens up a nice wide communication channel across the whole team. On top of that, we have a flat organisational structure. No hierarchy anywhere. Our co-founders are also pretty approachable.CoffeeWithHR fella homes To give you an example of our culture, when I joined Fella Homes I was a fresher and totally new to professional recruiting. At the time, the company was carrying out bulk hiring for every role and I was tasked with hiring a sales executive. Being a newbie, I started with asking everyone in the office to refer their friends and acquaintances interested in a sales job. Frankly, I was overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised to see the response. Everyone on the team pitched in their references – even our office boy.

That’s fantastic! The fact that they are so approachable brings us to our next question. What kind of team-building and employee engagement programs do you have in place?

Neha: We want everyone on the team excited and engaged. One way we do that is by conducting fun office activities like Dumb-Charades every Saturday. Everyone from interns to co-founders participates and we all have a blast.CoffeeWithHR fella homes In addition, we also participate in corporate tournaments. Last time, we played football matches against HP and Google. It was a riot! Although we lost the matches, it was really uplifting to see the level of energy and enthusiasm of the whole team. I believe this is the biggest benefit of having open and approachable cofounders – we don’t have to force team-building activities, it comes naturally.

Now, let’s talk about when a candidate comes in for an interview. As you know, sometimes the candidates don’t join the company after receiving an offer. Are there any tactics or any process you use to ensure the candidate has a stellar experience?

Neha: Generally, either Digendra or Amit, our co-founders, interviews the candidates. Amit has around 3-4 years of experience and he likes to start the interview by sharing his journey. This puts the candidate in a comfortable spot so he can share his experiences as well. Equally, Digendra is very down-to-earth so he shares his experiences openly with candidates too. Pragya: We involve the candidate in our vision and mission from early on in the interview process. We explain the product, how it works, where they will contribute, and the impact they can make by joining the team. It’s crucial to us that the candidate understands what we’re trying to build at Fella Homes. Since great candidates want to create value with their work, this practice ends up being a good experience for them.

Alright, that looks like a nice way to go. Now, in case, if you reject candidates, how do you do that? We ask this because, at times, we’ve heard from candidates that some companies provide a poor response in reaching back to them?

Pragya: I’ve found the best practice to turn down a candidate is being honest about it. I make sure we explain each rejected candidate the reason why we didn’t think they’ll be a fit at Fella Homes. Neha: Yes, that’s the best way to go about it. Once, I had an experience of turning down a super persistent candidate. In such cases, I genuinely tell them we’ll keep them posted if a position opens up that matches their skills. Or we’d be happy to refer them to our contacts for open positions. I think it’s important to empathise with the candidates as it goes a long way in establishing a good practice as a recruiter.

That’s a great exercise. In fact, we talked about this topic in detail in one of our blogs on Employer branding. Speaking of good practices, do you have any advice for somebody who’s starting up in your field?

Pragya: Drop the expectations from the role when you’re just starting out in HR. Focus on learning with the flow. I remember when I was on my first call with a candidate. I couldn’t stop fumbling in every sentence. That’s when I realised handling a role in HR is all about the practical experience, the training, and building up the confidence. That’s the reason you shouldn’t expect but rather build your skills from the ground up. Neha: I’ll add one more thing – selflessness. You need to learn the art of solving problems for other people before solving your own.

Now switching up the topic, let’s talk about your role as an HR recruiter and the industry. What do you think is changing in your role and your industry?

Pragya: Yes, the industry has shifted a lot since I started 2 years ago. The startup wave has generated tons of jobs. Not only that, the quality of job opportunities also improved drastically. Take marketing for example. You have so many niche roles just in the content marketing space – SEO writing, content writing and so on – more proof there’s a refined profile for everyone.

What about social media, do you leverage that for hiring as well?

Neha: Definitely. Social media has proved really helpful, especially for hiring sales and marketing interns.To give you an example, I’m a member of facebook groups for sales professionals, biz dev professionals and others from Delhi-NCR. I post our openings there from time to time and get a good response. This is a refreshing change from earlier times when Naukri was the only source for hiring.

Well, we’ve asked you a lot of serious things now. Let’s wrap it up by telling us about your happy place. How do you unwind yourself?

Pragya: Well, I found the best way to unwind after a hectic schedule is by chatting up. We seriously talk a lot, either to solve a problem or to share some funny moments. Neha:  Also, since I’m a movie buff, I put on a flick as soon as I reach home to finally kick back after a workday.

It’s been amazing talking to both of you. Any final thoughts before we take off?

Pragya: I’d just like to thank Instahyre for their great support. Before I joined Fella Homes, I didn’t know about Instahyre. Had I known Instahyre then, it would’ve been a totally different scenario. I say this because at my previous company we focused on hiring tech talent for UI/UX, developer roles etc. and Instahyre has been a great tool to find great tech talent. In fact, before we joined, Amit totally depended on Instahyre for finding quality tech profiles. Fella Homes is hiring. Check out their profile here!]]>

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